Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fish Bait

KK sent me a copy of "A Calumny a Day To Keep Hillary Away." Warning: Due to the number of comments, that page will take some time to load, which may make you think your browser is frozen. Just keep clicking the "stop" icon or hammering on the Escape key to stop the page from loading.

Anyway, here is my response.

Thanks for sending.

I saw this piece when it first appeared, as well as the preceding one that inspired it, and I didn't really make it through either. Stanley Fish used to raise the occasional interesting thought, but lately, he seems to me either out of touch (remember his Starbucks column?) or laboring under the misapprehension that musing without thesis or conclusion counts as thoughtful contemplation.

Upon re-reading what you sent, I guess he doesn't particularly deserve either criticism in this case. However, I still didn't much care for it.

I grant that there is no shortage of irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton, and that a non-trivial element of sexism pervades coverage of her. However, the backlash is becoming just as bad. It is nearly impossible in some circles to express my dislike for Clinton or to try to articulate why I feel this way without getting branded as a sexist or lumped in with the people who still obsess over the "murder" of Vince Foster.

Why is it okay to label Mitt Romney "robotic" or "phony," or to say that Bush's speechifying grates on my nerves, or to call Giuliani's laugh "creepy," but not okay to say any of these things about Clinton?

Why is it okay, in short, to have a negative visceral response to any other candidate, but not her?

On the intellectual side, there are certainly plenty of reasons to prefer that Clinton not be the Democratic nominee -- her bad call on the Iraq invasion and continued refusal to acknowledge the mistake, a Senate history of pandering on idiotic issues like flag burning and video games, her secretive and disastrous handling of the national health care initiative the first time around, the hints of a willingness to go cutthroat on the campaign trail, to name but a few -- but again, if I raise any of these points, the response is all too often, "You're just a Clinton-hater, and you hate her because she's a woman."

Fish's Fred MacMurray allusion worked for me a little bit. It's true: part of the reason I hope she doesn't win is my fear of rousing the rabble on the right. It struck me as legitimate for Fish to say that this attitude can be seen as giving into them. But after thinking about it for a moment, I don't really buy it. The best chance the Republicans have to win is by running against Hillary, not to mention Bill. And even if she does win, she goes into office with nearly half of the population hating her, and virtually none of those people will ever let go of that feeling. Her presence alone will obviate the possibility of working together on problems that demand at least a little bit of unity, like Iraq, health care, an irresponsible tax structure, and global warming. If you thought Congressional Republicans' loyalty to every cockamamie Bush proposal seemed lockstep beyond any glimmer of reason, you ain't seen nothing yet.

If she wins the nomination, will I vote for her? Of course. If she wins the general, will I support her? Yes -- if a knife fight is the only game in town, I won't retreat to the sidelines. But I'd really like to try a different approach. Maintaining an attitude of us-vs-them over the past sixteen years has led to nothing but an inflation of the power of the radical right and endless delays in addressing our real problems. This is a good time to prefer a fresh face, to drop the cynical response to a call to work together, and to take a chance on hope.



bjkeefe said...

KK points out that he liked the comments below Fish's post better than he did the original column.

jiminy jilliker said...

Wow is it ever hard for me to disagree.
What bothers the hell out of me is when I mention (in a comment to a blog post-my friends and relatives are already convinced and very very tired of hearing from me on these subjects) something I don't like about Clinton, I get a barrage of anti-Obama points. They may well be valid points, but they in no way respond to what I wrote about Clinton.
And yes, I see this in the other direction, too.
It's, of course, a function of the either/or nature of the Dem. field at this point, but it is depressing as hell nonetheless.
Why is it depressing? Because it shows an astonishing lack of ability to deal with important questions in a structured, logical way. I know, we are not Vulcans and emotion is huge-but it ought, in a perfect world, to fit into the overall rational framework.
At least there should be an attempt to reason that way, no?